Maureen Wood

Chef’s Plate

I don’t know exactly how I came across the website for Chef’s Plate but it was probably Facebook. If you haven’t heard of Chef’s Plate, in a nutshell it is a “food box”, you know like the monthly beauty boxes? Except in this case once a week (or less if you skip weeks) you get two meals delivered to your door. Something about this really intrigued me so I immediately signed up.

A quick look at Chef's Plate Chicken Supreme with mashed potatoes and asparagus.

I had to register of course, provide a few preference details, and then pick a few recipes from their weekly assigned choices. On their website they had a coupon for two free meals (it’s still there) so I entered that and instead of paying $49.80 I paid $28. A $6 delivery charge is included in those prices.

I received an email last night that my box had been shipped and around 2:30 this afternoon it arrived via FedEx. I’d like to point out that a meal for two people x 2 is actually pretty heavy so I’m surprised they are able to do such reasonable shipping.

Here is a quick Instagram video of me unpacking the box (I mention them forgetting a piece of chicken but there was actually two in the package):

Everything is nice and chilled.

A video posted by Moe (@biggirlblue) on

The well packed box came with four ice cold packs around the meat. Since one of the meat options was chicken, and this was a concern for me, I was relieved to see everything was still so chilled considering the heat and humidity we are experiencing this week.

I have unpacked everything and put it in the fridge. I have to head out and do some grocery shopping (haha) and will decide when I get back what we will try first. Dinner options I received: Corned Beef on a Pretzel Bun and Herb Crusted Chicken Supreme (both are pictured on this page), one for each of us.

A heavy card stock recipe direction card came for each meal. There are a lot of instructions on the back so it doesn’t look like they are making you guess how to do anything.

I’m quite excited about trying some new recipes and I love the fact that I don’t have to go hunting for ingredients at the grocery store because everything is included (except basics i.e. brown sugar). I always get frustrated when I try to follow a new recipe and it turns out I cannot find one to five of the ingredients I need.

I will post an update once I try both meals and let you know how it goes.

A quick look at Chef's Plate corned beef on a pretzel bun

Chef’s Plate is currently delivering Ontario wide and “expanding quickly”.

UPDATE on My First Two Chef’s Plate Meals

From here on, the images are of my actual plated results.

Corned Beef on a Pretzel Bun with homemade tomato jam and mixed green salad — We both hated the salad that came with this meal. It was too bitter. I did not use all the juice from the half of lemon and it was still bitter. I think it needed sugar or something to balance it.

The sandwich was really good and I have actually found myself craving to have it again. The portion size was quite large and Jeff ended up saving half his sandwich for lunch the next day.

Corned Beef on a Pretzel bun with spinach salad and tomato jam via Chef's Plate.

There was also a side of tomato jam which was awesome. Jeff even liked it and he is not a big tomato person — that’s an understatement, he tends to pick tomatoes off everything.

Lemon was carried throughout the meal, in the dressing for the salad, spread for sandwich, and in tomato jam.

The full page recipe cards are easy to follow but I would like to see larger images. I know space is a premium but a little larger would be nice.

Montreal Spiced Steak with new potatoes and red delicious apple kohlrabi salad — Overall it was a tasty meal that was fairly easy to prepare and cook. The salad was OK. Better than the last one. I also mixed the ingredients together first before applying over salad, rather than mixing like the directions said, to give a more uniform taste.

The steak was yummy but perhaps the steak spice was a bit too salty. I’ve never pan fried a steak before so this was an interesting experience and I’m happy with the results and can see myself doing it again. The potatoes were awesome of course, they are potatoes, but they needed a cooking time of 30 minutes and not the 20 instructed.

A photo posted by Moe (@biggirlblue) on

 

UPDATE on a Few More Chef’s Plate Meals

We have tried a few more recipes over the last few months. I won’t give a full review of them, just a few quick thoughts.

Chicken Cheese Melts with tomato, basil, and corn nut chopped salad — Loved this. A new way for us to make chicken. I have never cooked with Provolone and cornflake crumbs before.

Chicken cheese melt and salad from Chef's Plate.

Turkey Meatballs over fresh spinach fettuccine and lemon butter sauce — Lovely, glamerous looking dish that really felt like no effort to make. Just enough for two. My first time cooking with marinated artichokes. Delish!

Fresh spinach fettuccine and turkey meatballs from Chef's Plate.

Chicken in a Lemon Cream Sauce with mashed potatoes and leek haystacks — Never thought of leeks as a side before (usually only make leek soup) so this was interesting to try. Chicken and potatoes were a win.

Chicken with cream sauce and capers with a side of mash and leek salad. From Chef's Plate.

Hand Rolled Ricotta and Kale Manicotti with fresh pasta and garlic bread — There was very little complaining about the greens in his pasta. It’s a fancy dish that was easy to make because all the ingredients were right there.

 

A photo posted by Moe (@biggirlblue) on

Herb Crusted Chicken Supreme with mashed potatoes and spiced green beans — This was an interesting method of cooking the chicken (stuffing then pan frying) and was very tasty. Described as “hard” difficulty on recipe card but really wasn’t that difficult in my opinion.

Herb Crusted chicken with a side of beans and onions from Chef's Plate.

Vegetarian Thai Red Curry with chickpeas, green beans, and whole wheat roti — This was a beautiful dish to look at. It was fragrant but overall not a favorite for either of us. It seemed too overloaded with the chick peas and somehow was too spice and too bland at the same time — too much heat. I did not use all the curry paste, thank goodness.

Vegetarian Thai Curry chickpeas from Chef's Plate.

Final Thoughts on Service

I really love the concept of having all my ingredients on hand and ready to go without having to worry about what I missed. The convenience is awesome! I also liked that I was able to learn a few cooking techniques as well as work with and taste new ingredients that I would not normally be exposed to. If you don’t like what they pick for you there are at least four other options to change to on their website.

As for the company and website, it is very easy to manoeuvre to change meal selections and to skip weeks. I picked and chose the weeks I wanted to use the service in advance up to two months. And there is a pause option that I am currently using because we had a big home expense and I did not want to have to worry extras payments. This is seriously one of the best features of the system. I hate box programs that make you feel trapped.

I like the service and will use it again soon.

***
Topic Links
* Visit Chef’s Plate to sign up (Yep, if you use this link I get a free meal.)

The Adventures Of Flash Jackson

My Review

“You must remember that every irrational fear has some basis in the unconscious.”

My review of the Adventures of Flash Jackson.Who is Flash Jackson? Flash is the alter ego of 16 year old Haley Bombauer, a tomboy in search of her authentic self. The self she learns was there all along. With Flash Jackson around she doesn’t have to face her fears or come to terms with her losses.

The Adventures of Flash Jackson is written from the perspective of a twenty something Haley. The nickname, Flash Jackson, stemmed from a game she played with her now deceased father in which they pretended to be stuntmen. Haley believed she was a “stuntman trapped in a female body”.

The Magic of Flash

William Kowalski has written Haley’s voice as educated, conversational, witty and without shame. I found myself reading her voice with a light southern twang even though the story takes place just outside the fictional town of Mannville, New York. Haley tells the reader that this is “a record of my seventeenth year,” and she warns “if you’re not interested in this sort of thing you better stop reading right now. I’m writing this for myself…” This kind of tongue in cheek candour is speckled throughout. The fact that her mouth sometimes moves faster than her thoughts is amusing despite the trouble she gets into or the hurt feelings she creates. She struggles to make the things and people around her bend to her will but once she becomes incapacitated she learns she really doesn’t have the control she thinks she does.

During one of Haley’s tomboy adventures she breaks her leg in three places causing her to be bed-ridden. Through her forced immobilization she begins to learn new things about the people in her life that ultimately leads to the realization of her own character and the development of the woman she is to become.

Haley is accompanied through her year of reminiscing by her slightly neurotic, lonely mother; her pot-growing, Mennonite grandmother; her schizophrenic friend Frank; her guidance counsellor, neighbour Ms. Powell and a host of wildlife, domesticated and otherwise.

I was skeptical from the beginning that Kowalski could pull off a feminine character (my bias) but quickly forgot about the writer’s gender as I became absorbed in Haley’s life and surroundings. Especially when she went off to live with her grandmother in the forest, secluded from people and without what we know as the bare necessities: electricity, running water, and indoor toilet.

While with her grandmother Haley learns many things about the natural arts and an appreciation for silence. When you’re quiet for long periods “it starts to seem normal, and you realize how much talking people do that isn’t really necessary-talking for talking’s sake, which never really hurt anybody but doesn’t do any body a bit of good either”.

In the beginning Haley tries to fight the laws of nature but succumbs due to wasted effort and little success. A good example would be bathing. She fought to keep some form of cleanliness but her daily toils prevented her so she gave in and developed an awareness of her new odor.

“Sometimes I wondered what the world would be like if no one took showers. We would know people by our noses first and by our intellect second.”

I enjoyed Haley’s insight into the simple things we take for granted, things we see everyday but don’t pay much mention to, like FOR SALE signs. “You never could tell what a FOR SALE sign really meant when you saw one. It might mean We Hate It Here and We’re Going Back to Where We Came From, or possibly There was a Terrible Divorce, or even as in this case, Everyone Here is Dead. It never just means For Sale.”

I do not have many complaints about this book save one. The grandmother’s dialogue is difficult and slowed down reading unnecessarily. “Den varom willst Du k no from ich?” I would have preferred a description of her dialect rather than trying to decipher her speech patterns.

Witchcraft has saturated the film and TV industry over the last few years. It seems to have become a fad in many instances and although it appears in this story it doesn’t overwhelm or take anything away from the characters. The magic in “Flash Jackson” is more than a belief system. It’s the everyday magic right in front of our eyes.

“There is such a thing as magic in the world, and if you don’t know that, it’s because you’ve decided not to know, not because you haven’t seen it. You have seen it-all of us have seen it. Maybe you just didn’t believe it because it scared you. Entirely possible. Nobody’s fault.”

The Adventures of Flash Jackson is a complete book but I want to know what adventures Haley Bombauer survived after her 17th year. I hope Kowalski will consider serializing Haley. I’m sure you will too.

This book review was first published at Linear Reflections in 2005.

The Nathaniel Hawthorne Audio Collection

“Happiness is a butterfly, which when pursued, is always just beyond your grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.”

My Review

“Solitude was his natural element,” says Paul Auster (author) in the one hour introduction Hawthorne at Home that gives tribute to Nathaniel Hawthorne’s writing life as well as a glimpse into his family and friendship with Herman Melville.

Portrait of Nathanial Hawthorne in my book review.The emphasis though is not on the writer of The Scarlet Letter or The House of the Seven Gables but on the more personal side witnessed within his journals.

This Hawthorne collection features journal writings titled Twenty Days with Julian and Little Bunny, by Papa and three short stories: Young Goodman Brown, The Minister’s Black Veil and Rappaccini”s Daughter.

Worthy of your Listening Time

Auster’s voice is relaxed, honest and comfortable to listen to as he continues with Twenty Days reading Hawthorne’s “account of a man taking care of his child by himself”. Hawthorne wrote about his interactions and observations of his five year old son Julian during a three week period in 1851 while his wife and daughter were away visiting. Auster says the notebook was for Hawthorne’s wife Sophia so she could read about what they did while she was away.

A portion of Twenty Days was first published in another volume of Hawthorne’s work but it never appeared in its entirety. According to Auster, Hawthorne has accomplished what every parent wishes, “to keep his child alive forever”.

Hawthorne’s reflections are almost reminiscent of Michael Keaton in Mr. Mom. They are light, loving and believable. In-depth descriptions of their activities, meetings, power struggles, walks and meals have a familiar quality to them.

Children in the mid 1800′s are quite similar with children of today. Julian, whom Papa affectionately refers to as Little man, is a bundle of energy until the full stop occurs. He is inquisitive with endless questions for his daddy. Within a few days we see Hawthorne already showing shortness of patience with Julian but is quickly renewed with a new day. Other notable similarities arise like when he and Julian were having a fine day with themselves and uninvited guests appeared. There was no food to provide and they hadn’t the time to tidy. Hawthorn termed the visitors, “invaders” and wished for his wife’s presence to do the entertaining. They were also not without their own routines. He was to bed by 9 and usually up by 6 and liked to look “over the paper before bed”. The similarities between then and now are amusing.

His journal is full of scenic descriptions, character studies and lessons to Julian. Bits of Hawthorne’s personality bleed into the diary. Like his penchant for paranoia shown by his need to deliver a letter to the post himself. He wrote a letter to Phoebe (nickname for his wife Sophia) and handed it over to a visitor who was also going to post. He later “regretted it” and promised to post another himself because there was no guarantee whether it would be posted. Hawthorne’s love of nature is also apparent in his recurring descriptions of their daily walks.

Following Hawthorne’s diary entries are three strange, dark stories narrated by James Naughton (actor). I was left wondering why they were compiled with the light cheery reflections of Hawthorne’s journal. The transition from one reader to another was also unnerving and awkward.

The first story, Young Goodman Brown begins with a young married man (Goodman Brown) saying goodbye to his new bride Faith despite her begging him not to go. At the beginning of his journey he meets up with a strange man and they walk along a wilderness path (something Nathanial did daily according to Twenty Days). The path seems to be a metaphor for evil. The old man talks about knowing Goodman’s father and grandfather and his relationship to the other villagers. There are a few play on words like his wife’s name is Faith and at one point he screams, “I have lost my Faith!” having obvious double meaning. If it’s yet not obvious to you what this story is about it is because it wasn’t clear to me either but I gather it has something to do with one man’s struggle with his conscious good and evil both real and imagined.

The second story, The Minister’s Black Veil is also full of metaphors. Again we see the involvement of the townspeople in this story that’s supposed to be “a parody”. One day Mr Hopper, a minister, walks about town with a black veil covering his eyes but his mouth and chin remain exposed. All want to know “the mystery concealed behind it”. The town folk are upset by this change in their friendly minister who even wears the veil during his service causing the folks to read more into his sermon than usual. A man they’ve known well has suddenly become a man they feel they don’t know at all. During the story he attends a funeral, church service and wedding. It’s an interesting moral tale.

The final story, Rappaccini’s Daughter is equally as dark. A bored young, Italian writer named Giovanni becomes distracted by a luscious garden and fountain outside the window of the room he rents and most importantly the daughter of the plants’ caretaker, Beatrice. This is a strange tale about a girl raised in seclusion by her scientist father among poisonous plants and who has become a poison herself. Slow to start but has a twisted unsuspecting outcome.

I thoroughly enjoyed Hawthorne’s Twenty Day’s Diary and was slow to warm up to the short stories mostly because I was expecting them to have the same flair as the journal. Both create different moods but are worthy of your listening time.

This review was originally published on Linear Reflections in 2005.

Under The Net — Book Review

Under the Net was Iris Murdoch’s first novel published in 1954 and is one of Time Magazine’s 100 best novels of all time. Much is made of Murdoch’s philosophy background and how she married it with her fiction writing. And while I do find this present it doesn’t make the story any more or less entertaining. The most common philosophical theme in this book is that of truth and lies in communication and how we are incapable of ever telling the complete truth.

James Donaghue (Jake) is a struggling British writer and book translator living in London with a girl named Magdalen (Madge), a typist and model. She kicks him out in an attempt to get him to commit. In the mean time she hooks up with a book maker, Samuel Starfield, who has his own agenda.

My review of Iris Murdoch's Under the Net.The main story follows Jake as he searches about town for an old acquaintance, Hugo Belfounder. According to Jake, Hugo “is the central theme of this book”. Jake first met Hugo years previously during a medical research project they both participated in (they were essentially guinea pigs). They shared a room, lively conversation and a mutual respect. Jake ended up writing a book (and publishing it) about Hugo’s ideas without telling him. He felt guilty about it and ditched his friend with no notice. Years later, Hugo suddenly returns to his thoughts and his social circle. All Jake wants to do is find Hugo and apologize for what he feels is a great grievance against him. Finding Hugo and a new place to live doesn’t come as easy as expected as Jake becomes easily distracted especially when he discovers an underlying story of deception; a planned double-cross involving his ex, her new beau and The Wooden Nightingale, the current manuscript Jake is translating.

Slow Momentum

Jake is an odd duck who’s always getting into these extraordinary situations (like stealing an acting dog, skinny dipping in the Thames or bringing down an entire movie set on a crowd of protesters) and managing to get out from under the net at the last moment. Jake is a bit paranoid (“I am sensitive to observation and often have this feeling not only in the presence of human beings but in that of small animals”). He’s afraid of planes, trains, crowds and losing his pants in public. One moment he’s living off the assets of other people and next he’s handing out his last bill to the bum on the corner who pan-handles. Perhaps it’s his weird behavior that makes him so likeable.

Throughout the escapades Jake has a few trusted allies who are loyal and interesting characters who could have carried their own novels. Specifically, Peter O’Finney (Finn) who spends a lot of time as Jake’s wing man. Jake describes Finn as a “humble and self-effacing person and so automatically takes second place” and a man who’s “more like his manager” than a friend. Jake has a dislike for many things, being alone is one of them and this is where Finn comes in handy. There’s also Mrs. Tinckham, the chain smoking bar owner whom he trusts to look after his things when he’s between places (which is often). She’s a cat lady and “has been very kind” to him and he never “forgets kindness”. He also regards her very highly because of her respect for others privacy. “I am devoted to Mrs. Tinckham,” he says which makes the reader want to trust her to.

Under the Net was Iris Murdoch’s first novel published in 1954 and is one of Time Magazine’s 100 best novels of all time. After numerous reviews and watching the movie Iris starring Kate Winslet I had great anticipation in reading it; half expecting shear writing brilliance.

I was really disappointed to find awkward passages of text like: “…that something had remained intact of that which there had formerly been between us; and it could not be but that the passage of time had somehow made this remnant more precious…” Strange similes like “the carpets were thick, and the work woodwork as clean as an apple.” Huh? I even found a blatant double cliché: “the ice was broken between us” and “it is possible to break the ice without burying the hatchet”.

Much is made of Murdoch’s philosophy background and how she married it and her fiction writing. And while I do find this present it doesn’t make the story any more or less entertaining. The most common philosophical theme in this book is that of truth and lies in communication and how we are incapable of ever telling the complete truth.

There is a lot of banter about what the title Under the Net refers to. Most think it has to do with Murdoch’s philosophy background specifically Austria philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein. Thinking in simpler terms I think it has more to do with Jake’s escapades and how he nearly gets caught but manages to slip out from “under the net” at the last moment.

The term “under the net” appears in an excerpt that Jake shares from his published book, The Silencer, in a conversation between Tamarus and Annandine on the theory of why we do what we do. “All theorizing is flight. We must be ruled by the situation itself and this is unutterably particular. Indeed it is something to which we can never get close enough, however hard we may try as it were to crawl under the net.”

The momentum doesn’t pick up until half way through the book. One of the best scenes, for me, was when Jake gets drunk and argues about political and social mores with a new friend, Lefty, who he met in a pub while out looking for Hugo. Then in chapter fourteen he leads a rescue for the Marvelous Mister Mars being held captive in the evil Samuel’s pad. This is actually when the book starts to get good. Jake falls in love with Mars the acting dog who becomes his one true companion when everyone else leaves him. I kept reading about how laugh-out-loud funny this book was but didn’t actually make a peep until Mars the acting dog was asked to feign death so Jake could skirt the police. In the end, Jake, who is taken care of by everyone else finally finds himself taking care of Mars.

Overall, the book was a big disappointment for me but I haven’t sworn off Murdoch yet. It is after all only her first book. There are twenty-five more to go. I’m hoping The Bell will be a better experience.

***
Topic Links
* Add Under the Net to Your Library
* My Review of The Bell
* My Review of Iris

This review of Iris Murdoch’s book was first posted on 5/24/2008 at Literary Fiction, BellaOnline.

Homemade Pirate Costume

My DIY Pirate instructions from a pair of second hand pleather pants. I made this for my husband in 2010 (and he still has it today) but it can be easily used for a woman pirate. First up, buy a pair of pleather pants from the second hand store in your size or bigger. The bigger you get the more material you have to work with. I say pleather because it would be a waste to cut into leather and it’s cheaper. I found a pair of pleather pants for $13 and they were in excellent condition.

The red dash lines are cut lines. Before I started I had to cut out the thin material liner which was easy enough. A. on image at left — The pleather pants had a 2″ waist band and a side zipper that I cut out. B. and C. are additional cuts just above the knee and again about 6″ longer. D. is a cut line to remove the seams in crotch.

How to cut the pleather pants.

The material on the lower half of the pant makes up the buccaneers of the pirate costume (the boots).

Buckeneer shoe covers for pirate costume are cut from lower legs.

The small section between B and C makes the fold over at the knee. The small piece is turned inside out and placed a few inches within the top of the larger piece and hand stitched around. I used waxed floss because it slid in and out nicely and didn’t break easily. The stitches were large enough to hold pieces together. Nothing fancy as it won’t be visible anyway.

I made a cuff by inserting a smaller piece into the longer one and folding it over.

I cut the remaining large pieces of fabric in half up the crotch and opened them. One piece makes up the back of the vest and the other piece I cut into two pieces out to make the front part of the vest. I didn’t use a template, I just eyed it. The front pieces were cut into point which made the vest longer in front and short in back. Out of leftovers I cut long strips about half an inch wide and as long as I could make them.

Pirate vest cut from main body of pants.

I poked holes in the shoulders where the front pieces would be attached and the side pieces where the front would connect with the back. I then threaded the long strips through the holes in a cross pattern as if lacing shoes and tied the two ends in long knots. The size of the vest can be adjusted by the ties.

To finish off the costume he wore his work cords, a white shirt I had in the closet, a noisy silver belt I picked up from the second hand store for $3, and a black stretch sash I had around his head, and a pair of black shoes. I put some dark eye make-up on him and finished off the look with a sword I picked up from the costume store for $5. Total cost $21.

This could be adapted for a woman: black skirt (short or long) or men’s baggy pants, white or red blouse, bandanna or sash on head, and wide belt at waist.

Plus Size Costumes

Originally published 8/31/2010 at Large & Lovely, BellaOnline.

All About Me Meme

It’s Easy to Talk About Yourself

The letters of ME -- talking about yourself via a Meme.When people are asked to introduce themselves or write a short bio it seems like the majority say it’s too hard to talk about themselves. In all honestly we talk about ourselves all day. We interject pieces of ourselves into conversations, relate to other’s stories when they talk about theirs. We are actually pretty good at talking about ourselves. This blogging meme makes it even easier.

There are two ways that this meme can be tackled. It can be done all in one blog posting like shown here or broken down into numerous posts (use prompting in brackets) for different days of the week by elaborating on each point instead of just providing a short answer.

This article was part of a project I started on Blogging Memes on Squidoo but it makes more sense to have it on my blog.

A Sense of Me

Copy and paste into your blog and fill in the comments after each question (removing suggestions in brackets). Use the title of this meme in your subject line or create your own. If doing the individual post suggestions for each question you’ll need to come up with your own title. Feel free to tag your friends or not. A link back to this post would be appreciated.

What time did you wake up this morning? (If an individual post, write two paragraphs about your wake/sleep habits, and whether you sleep through the night and how much you dream.)
11:30 a.m.

What do you like most about yourself. (If an individual post, write two paragraphs elaborating on what you like and giving an example.)
My sense of loyalty.

What do you like least about yourself. (If an individual post, write two paragraphs elaborating on what you like and giving an example.)
My sense of paranoia.

Can you sing? (If an individual post, write two paragraphs elaborating on your abilities, favorite songs, and any professional experience.)
I can. But the question should be, “Should I?” I’m tone deaf.

Can you dance? (If an individual post, write two paragraphs elaborating on your abilities, favorite songs, and any professional experience.)
Yes. But again, the question is, “Should I?”

Do you smoke? (If an individual post, write two paragraphs elaborating on your experience smoking or quitting. If you never smoked write about your feelings about it and how you feel about people you know who do.)
No

Do you drink? (If an individual post, write two paragraphs elaborating on your experience drinking or quitting. If you never drink write about your feelings about it and how you feel about people you know who do.)
Very occasionally. A little mocha Bailey’s smoothie now and then or wine.

Can you swim? (If an individual post, write two paragraphs elaborating on your swimming experience. How/when did you learn, how often do you do it, a memory that stands out. If you can’t swim, write about why you haven’t learned and an experience.)
I can sink.

Year you were born? (If an individual post, write two paragraphs about something in history that happened that year.)
1969

Favorite color? (If an individual post, write two paragraphs elaborating on your favorite color. Why is it your favorite color, has it always been etc.)
Blue, baby!

Sleep with or without clothes? (If an individual post, write two paragraphs what kind of clothes your like to sleep in — or not.)
I get too cold for nude. Besides, I may have to run out during a house fire.

What time do you go to bed? (If an individual post, go into detail about your bedtime routine and why this is your bedtime.
Anywhere between 3 a.m. and 6 a.m. depending what I am working on.

What About You

If you blog this meme then leave us a link to the post, I would love to come read about you. Warning! Non-related links will be deleted.

Don’t have a blog? Well then, cut and paste the above meme into the comment box below and tells us all about yourself!

Potato and Kale Soup

A few weeks ago I went out to lunch with my friend Lana. We went to a tiny bistro in a small neighboring town with a limited menu and seating but an interesting atmosphere with its barn wood walls. One of the things we all ordered was the soup of the day which was pototo, kale, and chorizo sausage. From the first spoonful I decided I needed to try to make this at home.

The potato kale soup I ordered at the restaurant.

This past week I went to work on my own version and posted the pictures to Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Then came the recipe requests.

A spoonful of my potato kale and chorizo soup.

I didn’t have the intention of making this soup again so I did not write down my method as I went along like I tend to do when I am creating food I know I will make more than once. But I thought I would throw together what I did here and those who were creative enough could take what they needed to make their own creations.

Moe’s Potato, Kale, and Chorizo Soup

The ingredients: I chose to use baking potatoes, baby kale, and chorizo in a sausage roll.
Other ingredients: skim milk, flour, cornstarch, chicken bouillon, paprika, cayenne pepper, and water.

My process: I started off baking four very large baking potatoes for a few hours on low, about 250 °F (our oven is a little hotter). When the potatoes were done I set them aside while I made a basic white sauce: 1 tablespoon of flour, 1 teaspoon of cornstarch and a cup of skim milk, blended with whisk then stirred over medium heat. Once heated and thickened I set it aside.

In a frying pan I fried 1 1/2 cups of the chorizo sausage (spanish sausage), which had been cut into bite size chunks, in about a teaspoon of olive oil. After about ten minutes I set it aside.

I cut open the potatoes and scooped out the innards (skins went to compost). They cooled on a plate while I set up the blender. I added the potatoes to the blender along with two cups of skim milk and blended. I added about 2 to 3 handfuls of baby kale and blended. I was afraid the kale would turn the soup super green so I didn’t blend it too much. I then poured it into a big pot and in another small blender I added a couple mroe handfuls of kale and a cup of water and two teaspoons of liquid bouillon and blended that before adding to the pot of potatoes. (I may have added one or two cups of water at this point but am not sure. If it is too thick, add some.) I then added 1/4 teaspoon of paprika and 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper.

Because there is so much milk (and the thickness from potatoes) it is important to keep an eye on the mixture and to keep stirring. It was at this point I realized I didn’t need to make the white sauce because the blending of the potatoes really extracted the starch but I added it anyway because it was already made.

Adding the chorizo sausage to the soup.

I added the fried sausage (I had actually used half the amount to begin with but decided to add more because it tasted too green). Simmer for about 30 minutes to allow the sausage flavor to permeate the soup. At this point I added 120 ml of whipping cream (half a 250 ml carton or about eight tablespoons. Make sure it is heated through and serve!

I found the soup more flavorful the next day after it had set overnight in the fridge the next day. Also because of the thickness I needed to add another two cups of water when I reheated it.

It is a tasty soup. I finished off the last of it tonight. It made about six or seven large meal size servings.

Exploring Personal Halloween Trends

A Halloween Meme for Bloggers

For some Halloween is part of their spiritual journey but for most it is about the candy and the costumes. This blogging meme lets your share some of your Halloween spirit on your blog. There are two ways that this meme can be tackled. It can be done all in one blog posting like shown here with short answers or broken up by each question or group of closely related questions for different days of the week. Mini pumpkins used as outdoor decorations in fall.

Exploring Personal Halloween Trends

Directions: Create a new blog post. Write an introduction then copy and paste the meme below into your blog and change the comments after the questions to your own. Use the title of this meme in your subject line or create your own. Feel free to tag your friends or not. A link back to this page would be appreciated.

1. Did you trick or treat when you were a kid? Definitely, it was a highlight. I would often tire out the adults who were supervising. I was so fascinated with people giving me candy and I would fill up one pillowcase and then go back home and get another.

2. How old were you when you stopped? Not sure. I was probably eleven or twelve.

3. What was your favorite costume as a kid? A neighbor who used to babysit me dressed me up as a pretty wicked hag with an old wool skirt, knee highs, black shawl, babushka, and green face paint complete with ugly moles.

4. What is your favorite adult costume. Witches are still tops.

5. What was your favorite Halloween treat as a kid? Reese Peanut Butter Cups.

6. As an adult? Not much has changed, it’s still Reese Peanut Butter Cups.

7. What do you like to give out for Halloween? Not much of a surprise here, Reese Peanut Butter cups in a zip bag with one rocket, one tootsie roll, one caramel, and one mini Kracker bar. We only get about thirty kids.

8. Does anything scare you about Halloween? Adults creeping around in the dark in hideous face masks; especially clowns. But mostly I am paranoid about our dog. When I was a kid a dog was poisoned and died one Halloween night and that has really stuck with me.

9. Are you superstitious about black cats? No. I think they are awesome.

10. Do you decorate your home for Halloween? I get a pumpkin, that’s pretty much it (although the last two years it has been mini pumpkins because they are so cute). I’m not a big decorations person in general. And I never dress up to hand them out (I know, bah humbug).

11. Do you bake Halloween goodies? Rarely, but if I do it is the Pillsbury pumpkin shaped cookies.

12. Are you a pumpkin carver? No, but I’m totally thrilled by other people who do it. I do like to bake the pumpkin seeds though!

13. What is your favorite scary movie to watch on Halloween? Anything to do with zombies!

Happy Halloween!

If you blog this meme then leave us a link will ya, I’d love to come read about you. Don’t have a blog? Well then, cut and paste the above meme into the box below and tells us all about your Halloween trends!

A Fruit Fly Serial Killer

This summer we developed a fruit fly problem. What is surprising is that it has taken this long, since we have been composting for years. We just seemed to hit the right amount of ripe bananas and compost to ignite a war between us and them.

When we noticed the first signs of the little critters flying around we ignored them. Big mistake. Don’t ignore them. One of the first thing we learned about fruit flies is that they produce like bunnies — in a shorter time span — about every seven days we could expect a new outbreak.

We started making a conscious effort in killing them. First I had a notepad that I used to swat them. I did pretty good with about ten flies in a session. Then all of a sudden it was like they learned from their dying comrades to get out of the way and I couldn’t hit one of them. Then I was putting a Ziploc bag near the bananas with a banana in it to catch them. This worked for about two Ziploc bags and I was only getting about six to eight at a time, hardly enough to account for wasting a bag or a banana. Finally I told Jeff, no more bananas or kitchen composter until we get this under control. We froze the bananas we had left (great for smoothies by the way) and cleaned out the kitchen compost collection container. It’s been about three weeks and we have seen a decrease in flies but they are still around and if they are still around… well hello bunnies.

I went to the Internet and found a forum with suggestions on how to kill fruit flies and the one method in particular that spoke to me was using cider vinegar in a glass with Saran Wrap on top with holes punched in the top to attract the flies. They crawl in but can’t crawl out. It seemed like a pretty inexpensive solution and the dead flies could just go down the drain.

I picked up a small bottle of cider vinegar the other day and put a glass by the banana area and by the compost area — just in case they are like butterflies and have the same flying route sense. I know, I know. Then I put one in the bathroom as that seemed to be a hot spot too.

Within two hours I had caught twenty flies in all three glasses. They were walking around so I swirled the glass to catch them in the fluid. My Karma is totally out the door. I got up this morning and there was a new hatch — each glass had ten to twenty flies. Eureka! It works! It really works.

Dead fruit flies in bottom of glass.

All day I have been circulating around the three spots and checking the glasses, giving them a swirl etc. I will change the glasses and solution tomorrow and add some fresh cider vinegar and Saran Wrap and wait.

Saran Wrap over a glass to catch fruit flies.

I am hoping to only have to do this for two more seven day cycles and in the mean time I am going to do a lot of surface cleaning to hopefully calm things down. It’s starting to get colder too so things will be in our favor. Fingers crossed.

Music Meme

Music is an important part of our existence from the time we were in our mother’s womb listening to her heart beat through the many decades of artistic music exposure.

The right song contains enough sentimental value to make us laugh, cry, or just give us an overall sense of nostalgia. While some of us are formidable talents with strings, horns, drums and everything in between the rest of us are perfectly happy to be able to soak up their creations.

One man’s taste is definitely not for everyone and luckily we have so many genres of music to choose from. Not to mention the centuries of music to draw upon.

Here is a brief music meme to explore your musical inspiration. If you don’t have a blog feel free to copy and paste the bold parts below into the comments and answer there.

How to use this music meme: Create a new blog post. Write an introduction. Copy and paste the meme below into your blog, changing the comments to your own answers. Use the title of this meme in your subject line or create your own. Feel free to tag your friends or not. A link back to this page would be appreciated.

A brief history of music in my life.

Did you play an instrument in the school band? No. I didn’t have the guts to try.

What instrument would you like to play I would be happy with piano, drums, acoustic guitar, saxophone, violin… too hard to pick just one. Cello. Probably a cello.

Church choir? I remember singing in the pews at a Polish church I went to with a friend but no, no choir experience for me.

What is your favourite song right now? Currently, it is Oh My by Gin Wigmore.

Favorite Lyrics? Big Big World by Emilia. It is so simple but I find it both addicting and soothing.

Favorite Band? I have not had a favorite band in a very long time. When I think of favorites, I think buying more than one album. The latest band album I have purchased was Juliette Lewis and the Licks (Four on the Floor).

Favorite Soloist? It is a tie between Madonna, Jewel, Diana Krall, Loreena McKinnett, and Norah Jones. My largest mini CD collections are of these four artists.

Favorite Musical (theatre)? Oooh, this is tough. I have seen Phantom of the Opera twice and loved it but Mamma Mia is really so much fun. I have seen school plays of Grease and Hairspray and also found them very enjoyable.

Favorite Musical (movie)? Wizard of Oz. No question about it. This is probably the movie I have seen the most in my life time and it never gets old. I also have the soundtrack on CD — like I say, never gets old.

Favorite Christmas song? “Do You Hear What I Hear?” and “I want a Hippopotamus for Christmas”.

What was your favorite live concert? Ladysmith Black Mambazo.

Have you ever belonged to a mail order music club? Yes, Columbia House… three times. Never again; although it is a good way to build up your music library quickly.

Do you still have your old tape collection? Yes, and I have nothing to play them in. I just cannot get rid of them though. I have replaced a few with MP3s from iTunes.

Do you let your friends borrow your music? Ok, this is a quirk of mine. I just cannot do it. All my CDs have to stay in their slots. I do not loan them, not even to the bestest of friends in the whole world. It is not that I don’t trust them… ok, it is. I hated sharing as a kid.

If you were stranded on a desert island what CD would you take with you? Jewel’s Pieces of You.

While you are in the car… CD or Radio? Radio, please. If it is a long ride I am totally up for an audio book.

What genre of music do you listen to on the radio? Anything pre-90s is preferred when I am listening to the radio; especially while in the car.

Do you listen to music while you are working? For the most part no, I want to sing too much if I know the lyrics which interferes with my thinking process. Occasionally if I am really bothered by outside noises I will put on classical music but I have to be in the right mood.

Music that annoys you? Music with screechy guitars are singers who scream instead of sing. Christmas music in November really annoys me too.

What song would you like your family to play at your funeral? The Parting Glass, a beautiful Irish song that celebrates friends and love ones.

Ok, now it is your turn. Share your musical inspiration — leave a link to your blog post if you do it.